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The Politics of Hysteria in David Cronenberg's The Brood

This article situates David Cronenberg’s 1979 film The Brood within the politics of family during the late 1970s by examining the role of monstrous birth as a form of hysteria. Specifically, I analyze Cronenberg’s monstrous Mother, Nola Carveth, within the role of the family in the 1970s, when the patriarchal, nuclear family is under question in American society. In his essay The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s critic Robin Wood began a debate surrounding Cronenberg’s early films, namely accusing the director of reactionary misogyny and calling for a political critique of his and other horror director’s work. The debate which followed has sidestepped The Brood, disregarding it as a complication to his oeuvre due to its autobiographical basis. This film, however, offers an opportunity to apply Wood’s call for political criticism to portrayals of hysteria in contemporary visual culture; this thesis takes up this call and fills an important interpretive gap in the scholarship surrounding gender in Cronenberg’s early films.
Read an excerpt here.